Clear Channel Can't Make Up Its Mind About Free Speech

Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

When the Sandra Fluke controversy first broke at the beginning of the month and Rush Limbaugh was under siege for his creepy and inappropriate sexual taunts targeting the Georgetown University law student, his syndicator, Premiere Radio Networks, put out of statement reiterating the right of all sides to express their opinions.

The Clear Channel-owned company, which pays Limbaugh $400 million, insisted Limbaugh's ugly misogynistic rants were simply part of the free marketplace of ideas.

From the Associated Press, March 5 [emphasis added]:

"The contraception debate is one that sparks strong emotion and opinions on both sides of the issue," Premiere Networks said in a statement on Sunday. "We respect the right of Mr. Limbaugh, as well as the rights of those who disagree with him, to express those opinions."

According to Clear Channel, everyone has a right to their opinion, and everyone has a right to disagree with Limbaugh and to "express those opinions."

But now, three weeks into the radio debacle and after more than 50 previous Limbaugh advertisers have bolted from his show, Clear Channel's tune has changed and suddenly it's most definitely not okay for Limbaugh's opponents to express their disagreement with the talker:

From an AP article today about Media Matters radio commercials now airing in several cities and which urge listeners to complain to Limbaugh's stations about his rhetoric:

"This is not about women," said Rachel Nelson, Premiere spokeswoman. "It's not about ethics and it's not about the nature of our public discourse. It's a direct attack on America's guaranteed First Amendment right to free speech. It's essentially a call for censorship masquerading as high-minded indignation."

According to an agitated Clear Channel spokesperson, Limbaugh's opponents have attacked his "First Amendment right to free speech." How? By contacting his affiliates and complaining about the insanely hateful and sexist comments he made about Sandra Fluke.

In the span of two weeks, Clear Channel has embraced two very different views about the freedom to express opinions. What will next week bring?

Clear Channel
Rush Limbaugh
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